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Sony to launch PlayStation Vita in Japan in December

September 16, 2011 |  1:26 pm

Sony Sony Worldwide Studios chief Shuhei Yoshida demonstrates PlayStation Vita
Sony will launch its next-generation handheld gaming console, the PlayStation Vita, in Japan on Dec. 17 and debut it in other countries next year, reports say.

The Vita, expected to be a strong competitor to Nintendo's 3DS gaming console, will reportedly bypass the holiday shopping season in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world, missing out on potentially big sales.

At a Wednesday news conference, Hiroshi Kawano, head of Sony's Japanese game unit, said the device will be "packed with every possible function," according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Indeed, the Vita will contain some fancy specs, including a 5-inch touch-screen display and a touch pad on the rear for controlling games with finger motions, cameras in the front and back (features the Nintendo DS line has had for a while) and wireless capability.

The Vita will also have functions outside of gaming. Kawano said the console will have a music player, its own Web browser, photo and video apps and access to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, according to Dow Jones Newswires. 

The console will be priced at $249 for the Wi-Fi only model and $300 for the 3G/Wi-Fi version.

The Vita could help prop up Sony's gaming business, which was dealt a serious setback this year when hackers dug their way into its PlayStation Network, compromising the personal data of millions of gamers and forcing the Japanese company to temporarily shutter its online gaming service. The consumer electronics giant estimated the cost of repairing the hacker damage at nearly $172 million, only about $30 million less than the damage suffered from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March.

By releasing the Vita after the holiday season, Sony will also miss a chance to speed past Nintendo as the leader in sales of portable gaming consoles. Despite fanfare surrounding the device, Nintendo's 3DS console has yet to catch on with consumers in a big way, selling 4.3 million units worldwide so far. Last year, Nintendo sold 27 million units of the previous generations of DS consoles. On Aug. 12, Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS to $169.99 from $249.99.

Handheld gaming consoles are facing serious competition as people increasingly play games and watch entertainment designed for smart phones, tablet computers and social networks.

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-- Shan Li

Photo: Sony Worldwide Studios chief Shuhei Yoshida demonstrates the company's new PlayStation Vita during a speech at the Tokyo Game Show on Thursday. Credit: Koji Sasahara / Associated Press

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